The nationwide lockdown and "curfew situations" could delay the supply of protective gear for medical professionals at the frontline of the battle against the Coronavirus by at least a month, a government agency has admitted. The admission forms part of an email dated March 28 sent by HLL Lifecare, a government company under the Health Ministry to the Chief Medical Director, Procurement, of South Western Railways.
HLL has been deputed as the nodal agency to procure safety gear for the corona outbreak for the Central and state governments.
The HLL mail was in reply to a request by South Western Railways seeking a quotation for 13,000 Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) kits for Railways Hospitals. These included 13,000 safety coveralls, masks, gloves and goggles.
In response, HLL wrote back with a quotation for the items, but in the terms and conditions mentioned "an acute shortage of the items in the market".
"The minimum delivery period," HLL's email said, "is 25 to 30 working days due to short supply of medical relief materials & prevailing curfew and lockdown situations for transportation".
"Due to the shortage of materials and the huge demand from various Govt. institutions the delivery would take a maximum of 30 days from the date of billing of the materials from our warehouses," the HLL email went on to say.
The Health Ministry today issued a statement detailing the status of its efforts to procure safety gear.
The statement said the government has procured only 60,000 coveralls, and has placed orders for roughly 60 lakh PPE kits, of which approximately half are being met by domestic manufacturers. The rest are import orders from Singapore and South Korea, coordinated by the Ministry of External Affairs. Around 4 lakh PPEs are in stock across the country.
The statement does not clarify when the overseas orders will be delivered.
The statement also says that 'hospitals in the country have 11.95 lakh N95 masks in stock as of now', and that 'two domestic suppliers are able to supply 50,000 masks per day at the moment, but are ramping up capacities to make 1 lakh masks per day within the next week.'
It is unclear whether these numbers are sufficient to meet current requirements by the Centre and state governments.
The Chief Minister of just one state government, Tamil Nadu, said they have placed orders for 25 lakh N95 masks, more than double the 11.95 lakh current stock available across the country.
In global and domestic tenders uploaded on HLL's website, the government has sought 20 lakh coveralls, 20 lakh protective goggles, 50 lakh N95 face masks, 4 crore triple-layer surgical masks, 40 lakh nitrile gloves and 10 lakh bottles of hand sanitizers.